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Call for increased security funding as attacks on mosques more than double

26th Oct 2017
Call for increased security funding as attacks on mosques more than double

Hazardous Material Police unit carry out testing on suspicious white powder sent to East London Mosque it is thought six mosques were sent the powder over the summer
(Image courtesy of East London Mosque)

Elham Asaad Buaras

Community leaders have called for increased security funding of mosques after half of police forces across the country confirmed that the number of hate crimes targeting mosques and worshippers has more than doubled this year.

Mosque officials told The Muslim News they have experienced a surge in attacks both on their premises and their congregations. Anti-Muslim abuse, acts of vandalism at mosques and bomb threats feature heavily among the reported hate crimes.

According to Press Association report, 110 hate crimes directed at mosques have been filed by police forces between March and July this year, up from 47 over the same six month period in 2016.

In January, Communities and Local Government Secretary, Sajid Javid, announced a new fund of £375,000 to encourage the reporting and funding of hate crime, in addition to the £1 million of support directed at young people as part of the Hate Crime Action Plan announced last summer. The Government announced an additional £1 million would be made available to provide private protection outside places of worship.

The Jewish community receives £13 million for security outside their places of worship and schools. Home Office granted the Community Security Trust, which funds security measures for the Jewish community, more than £13 million to step up safety in Jewish state schools, and other community sites.

However, with a total of 55 places of worship applying for anti-hate crime funding since the Westminster terror attack and almost half of applications coming from mosques the fund is viewed as insufficient.

Ghulam Vohra of Hillfields Mosque & Muslim Association in Coventry told The Muslim News that although the mosque was successful in its preventative security measures there has been an increase in anti-Muslim incidents “both in the surrounding area of our mosque and in Coventry as a whole”.

Vohra suggested authorities increase funding in protecting Muslims. “The Government and the local authority need to review its commitments to religious hate crimes and invest money to address the issues. When it comes to members of the Muslim community, ploughing money into the PREVENT project seems to be very easy, but very little money is invested in protecting the Muslim community.”

Recorded attacks on mosques this year include cases of arson, smashed windows, damage to cars parked outside and graffiti along with physical assaults on Muslims on their way in or out of the buildings, and two complaints of bacon being left on mosque doors.

The figures showed 25 out of 47 of all UK police forces saw an increase in hate crimes directed at mosques in the past year.

The biggest increase was reported by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) – the scene of the devastating concert terrorist attack carried out by Salman Abedi which killed 22 people.

Reports of anti-Muslim hate crimes in Greater Manchester rose by 500 percent following the Manchester Arena attack, police figures show.

There were 224 complaints of attacks and abuse against Muslims in the month after the bombing, on 22 May.

That compares with 37 in the same period in 2016 – a 505 percent increase. A spokesperson for GMP confirmed to The Muslim News the spike was temporary and hate crime reports have returned to similar levels as before the attack.

The second largest increase was in London, hit by a series of terror attacks this year, with the Metropolitan Police recording 17 crimes, up from eight the previous year. Threats, harassment and other intimidating behaviours outside mosques more than tripled across the country, from 14 crimes in 2016 to 49 in 2017. Violent crime against Muslims attending mosques more than doubled from five recorded crimes in 2016 to 11 crimes in 2017.

The true number of hate crimes directed at mosques is likely to be higher due to differences in how police forces record their statistics and the fact that not all forces are included in the figures. The figures emerged within weeks of separate incidents in which an imam and a surgeon who treated Manchester bombing victims were stabbed outside a mosque in Cheshire and another in which a 14-year-old boy was stabbed multiple times in the face and neck outside a mosque in Birmingham.

Other high-profile cases of hate crime at mosques this year include the Finsbury Park terror attack in June, a Manchester mosque destroyed by fire in an arson attack in July.

It is thought six mosques and Islamic centers were sent white powder over the summer but the exact number affected remains unclear. Confirmed recipients of the powder include The Muslim Welfare House in Finsbury Park, Masjid Ayesha in Tottenham and Noor Ul Islam in Waltham Forest and East London Mosque in the heart of Tower Hamlets.

Spokesman for East London Mosque Trust, Salman Farsi, told The Muslim News, “Thankfully, it was a cruel hoax we often find ourselves living in constant fear of what if we will be targeted next – just as people were attacked in Finsbury Park during Ramadan.”

The mosque has since stepped up its security including round the clock security guards and installation of additional CCTV cameras.

Outside the mosque’s premises Farsi says worshippers are sometimes unaware they should be reporting their ordeals to the police. “Several of our female worshippers have reported being abused and spat on after the London Bridge attacks. Women are often targeted because of their visible Islamic attire or because they are wearing the hijab,” he told The Muslim News.

The mosque had to respond to many calls concerning hate crimes from their congregation “including a call from an elderly woman from our community last year, who said she was attacked at a train station along with her friends. The perpetrator deliberately barged into her so hard that she toppled over onto her friends and hurt her arm. She was baffled as to why she was targeted and couldn’t make sense of it. She did not know how to report it as a crime.”

Erin Güney, the Funeral Director at Shacklewell Lane Mosque in north London, has seen “attacks by the BNP, pigs’ heads thrown at the door and buildings set alight” over the years since his father founded the mosque in the 1970s”, he said.

“Have I got to worry about people getting knocked [into] the air? That’s a really heavy responsibility. Now to worry that people are going to die on my doorstep is heartbreaking. I’m not concerned about myself, I’m concerned about the public and the people that come here,” said Güney.

He said, “We’ve got community events that take place here. Everyone comes, it’s not just about Muslims in the mosque.”

Muslim Council of Scotland Spokesman, Omar Afzal, told The Muslim News the figures are shocking and “are unsurprising given the anti-Muslim rhetoric that we’ve seen over last few years. Muslims have been made out to be a ‘fifth column’ and dehumanised. The result inevitably was going to be an increase in attacks.”

“One of our affiliates, Glasgow Central Mosque, was sprayed with graffiti ‘ISIS’ in May. Cumbernauld Mosque was also sprayed with graffiti saying ‘Saracens’ and ‘Deus Vult’ both references to the crusades. Many individuals of all ages have reported verbal abuse, in some cases physical assaults too.”

Ishaq Kazi of Masjid of Noor in Luton said their mosque has not been subject to Islamophobic incidents this year, but there is “alarm” at the surge of attacks on other mosques telling The Muslim News he would like authorities to help with the “provision of support and funding specifically for security measures”.

Co-Founder of Blackpool-based Noor-A-Madina Mosque, Tasurraf Natasha Shah, said she is not surprised attacks on mosques have more than doubled. Shah said the mosque has had “damage to the building..windows shot at and also had verbal abuse” and worshippers targeted this year.”

She told The Muslim News she would like to see more done to make it easier “for mosques to report crimes” and for “workshops with offenders to find out why” they commit the acts. Shah said the presence of far-right groups like EDL and BNP in Blackpool has made it “hard but we will not give up”.

Director of Public Affairs at Imam Khoei Islamic Centre London, Sayed Yousif Al-Khoei, said he was not surprised by the surge on anti-Muslim hate crimes targeting mosques, “given the current atmosphere of the normalisation of Islamophobia within some high political circles and sections of the media. Such an increase in attacks on mosques does not surprise us.”

Female worshippers who wear the hijab reported being “subject to different forms of intimidation,” he said

Al-Khoei told The Muslim News he “would like to see legislations in place that would criminalise Islamophobia in the same way as anti-Semitism.”

Several mosques and Islamic centres in the Midlands and Yorkshire who wished to remain anonymous have told The Muslim News they suffered sustained abuse including anti-Muslim graffiti scrawled on their mosque walls, windows smashed and hate mail delivered.

In a statement to The Muslim News, Home Office spokesman said: “All forms of hate crime are completely unacceptable and the UK has some of the strongest laws in the world to tackle it.”

However, Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott, called on the Home Office to publish data on hate crimes against all places of worship and said: “Politicians have a particular responsibility in the language they use, the policies they advocate and the climate they create. There should be a unanimous message that violence against any section of our society is unacceptable.”

To report any Anti-Muslim incident, please contact The Muslim News on telephone 0208 863 8586 (out of office hours 07768 241 325) or email info@muslimnews.co.uk. All cases will be treated with the utmost confidence.

One Response to “Call for increased security funding as attacks on mosques more than double”

JimboOctober 26, 2017

How many of those are sectarian hate crimes or muslim on Muslim? Not surprised Muslims and mosques are being attacked with daily reports of ISIS attacks around the world. Hatred breeds hatred. Forget about handouts the mosques just need to step up their own security. Just be thankful they haven’t closed down your establishments and are still free to practise your religion.

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